By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
NILES — Through the use of a tactical approach and non-lethal weaponry, the Cass County Sheriffs Department avoided the chance of taking a life Thursday morning.
Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood Jr. said a few of his deputies were able to subdue a man wielding a machete after hitting the suspect with special rubber bullets.
Police responded to a residence on Little Street in Howard Township at about 1:15 a.m. concerning a call for a domestic incident. Cass County Dispatch was told a 44-year-old man was brandishing a machete and acting crazy.
Deputies found the victim and her 6-year-old child parked in a locked vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway. The victim told police that the father of her child and live-in boyfriend had unintentionally woke them during the night.
She indicated he was intoxicated, upset and had been yelling. The victim told police he had a machete in one hand and a handful of pills in the other at the time. When she attempted to remove the pills from him a struggle ensued.
Once the suspect was able to swallow the pills, he asked the victim if she had called the police and stated “if they come for me I’m not going out alive.”
Deputies attempted to make contact with the suspect who was locked inside the home. The suspect refused to come to the door.
One of the Cass County deputies who responded to the scene had been trained in “less-than-lethal” tactics, which included the use of a shotgun with rubber bullets. In fear of the suspect’s welfare who had taken an unknown amount of medication, Underwood said deputies entered the home and garage.
After announcing their entry alongside a K-9 unit, the suspect, carrying a large knife, appeared from behind the garage door within feet of the officers.
Deputies repeatedly told the suspect to drop the weapon. However, he proceeded to raise the hand holding the knife and moved toward the officers.
Police shot the suspect twice with the shotgun equipped with the less-then-lethal shotgun rounds. This caused the suspect to drop the knife. He was again ordered several times more to get down on the floor, as he appeared to begin looking around on the floor for the weapon.
As the suspect moved forward toward officers again, deputies physically took him to the ground and handcuffed him.
Capt. Tom Jacobs said the sheriff’s department began training officers with less-than-lethal tactics five years ago. Since then, police have carried the special equipment for the last three years.
There was only one person with such training that night, Jacobs said.
“We have just one person per night shift with that training,” Jacobs said. “We have lots of specialized trainings for deputies, but you can’t train them all for financial and staffing reasons.”
The suspect was transported to Borgess Lee Hospital by SMCAS ambulance service for treatment of minor injuries and lodged at the Cass County Sheriff’s jail on charges of felonious aggravated assault, resisting and obstructing police and domestic violence.
The suspect’s name is being withheld until arraignment. Deputy Tim Cochran was the officer on scene who had background in less-than-lethal training. Police were assisted by a K-9 unit from the Dowagiac Police Department.